The Gate Crash of 2009

The Gate Crash of 2009

The Gate Crash of 2009

The city of Washington has been collectively aghast at the spectacle of Michaela and Tareq Salahi, the fun couple from Virginia wine country who seem to have talked their way into the first state dinner of the Obama administration.

Of course, the White House is furious that the fawning press coverage of the dinner for the Indian prime minister was instantly superseded by the saga of the well-groomed gatecrashers. The White House has also battened down on behalf of Desiree Rogers, the Obama friend/fundraiser and White House social secretary (the -bureaucrat in charge of such events) who seems to have been more interested in inviting herself to the dinner and getting photographed with celebrities than with doing her job. So while the habitually camera-ready Desiree Rogers has disappeared from public view, the Secret Service, which waved the Salahis through, has been falling on its sword in a variety of venues, including at an emergency congressional hearing on this breach of security.

THE SCRAPBOOK, for its part, takes a considerably more sanguine view of the crisis. First, you can’t help but applaud the banana peel on which Rogers has so spectacularly tripped, and any occurrence that takes the imperious Secret Service down a peg or two can’t be all bad. THE SCRAPBOOK keeps a running log of gratuitous street closings in the nation’s capital, quarter-mile processions of tinted-window SUVs (sirens screaming) transporting the secretary of housing and urban development back from lunch, not to mention agents who grimace, yell, threaten, curse at innocent bystanders, prevent people from walking down sidewalks, force unlucky citizens to stand in the rain, and otherwise make life unpleasant for people who happen to live or work within a mile or two of the White House.

Second, while the Salahis may not be the sort of people whose company you would necessarily crave, THE SCRAPBOOK has to admire their sheer moxie in presuming to talk their way into the most ostentatiously guarded building in America, and enjoying the hospitality of the most sought-after social event in the capital city. Apparently, people in Washington are shocked to discover that there are couples of dubious character, confidence men, publicity hounds, and skilled purveyors of b.s. in Washington.

Indeed, there is a grand tradition of talented fakes in our culture and history–from the Duke and the King in Huckleberry Finn to the Grand Duchess Anastasia on to Howard Hughes’s “autobiography”–and the Salahis appear to have arrived from central casting. As far as THE SCRAPBOOK can tell, Tareq and Michaela broke no laws in talking their way onto the White House grounds, and as the mile-wide grin on Vice President Biden’s face would suggest, they seem to have been a delightful addition to the evening’s festivities.

And fitting symbols of the Hope and Change in Obama’s Washington.

No Love for Whistleblowers?

Elsewhere in this issue Steven F. Hayward does a dandy, and comprehensive, job of explaining Climategate, the worst news for global warming since last week’s snowfall in Houston. What fascinates THE SCRAPBOOK, in particular, is the little ways in which this devastating revelation about the junk science of climate change is being treated in the mainstream media–to the extent that it is being treated at all–and the swift reaction of the most important member of Congress on the issue, Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Boxer, last seen in these precincts when she berated a general for calling her “Ma’am” instead of “Senator,” is plenty angry about Climategate. Not about the corruption among the climate scientists, but the means by which the shocking evidence came to light. “You call it ‘Climategate,’?” she told a committee colleague, “I call it ’email-theft-gate.’?” And she threatens to hold hearings on the leak. “This is a crime,” she says.

In the past, when confidential information or correspondence has been leaked to the press, especially if it revealed evidence of criminal wrongdoing, the media referred to the leaker as a “whistleblower.” As in: Those courageous “whistleblowers” who swiped confidential files from Big Tobacco or Big Oil, or the Bush era “whistleblowers” who handed over classified information about the war on terror to the New York Times or Washington Post for publication. Careful readers will note that news stories tend to refer to the “hackers” who uncovered Climategate, not the “whistleblowers.”

So let’s get this straight, please: The heroic patriots who liberate information that embarrasses private companies, or Republican presidents, are called “whistleblowers,” and showered with praise and depicted in movies by Tom Hanks or Julia Roberts. But the sniveling malcontents who steal private property in order to undermine the obvious, -peer-reviewed, universally held, thousand-percent scientific consensus on global warming are “hackers.” That’s not a term of praise; and as Boxer would say, they should be hunted down, prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and convicted by a jury of whistleblowers.

Snowe Steps Up

Republican Senator Olympia Snowe, the Maine moderate, has never earned her way onto the list of THE SCRAPBOOK’s favorite members of Congress. Her decision to vote for the wretched stimulus package last February was but one of the more egregious of her transgressions.

But now, with the fate of Obama-care at stake in the Senate, she’s emerged as a powerful voice for, as she says, “effective, common-sense, bipartisan legislation to reduce skyrocketing costs and ensure affordable health insurance for the people of the nation.” The italics are hers to emphasize the importance of having both parties involved in sweeping domestic legislation like health care reform.

Snowe made that point and others equally trenchant in a little-noticed but excellent speech in the Senate on November 20. “The bottom line is, policies that affect more than 300 million people simply should not be decided by partisan, one-vote-margin strategies.” Again the italics are hers in the transcript of her speech.

Her ire was directed at Senate majority leader Harry Reid (though not by name), his Obamacare bill, and the rush to get it passed. “Because the American people understand intuitively that, when you’re debating the future of one-sixth of our economy and a matter of such personal and financial significance to every American, we shouldn’t be railroading solutions along partisan lines,” she declared. “If there’s one thing I’ve learned from more than 30 years of legislative experience, it’s that the only way to allay people’s fears is by systematically working through the concerns .??.??. the issues .??.??. and the alternatives.”

Think what would have happened if Social Security, Medicare, and civil rights bills were enacted this way. Could they “have been as strongly woven into the fabric of our nation had they passed by only one vote and on purely partisan lines?” Her vote against the motion to proceed with Reid’s bill was her answer–no.

Snowe had numerous specific objections. She abhors the “government-sponsored plan”–the public option–and wants fewer tax hikes and less bureaucracy. Plus, Snowe wants every American to be able to buy cheap catastrophic health insurance.

Because she voted for the now-defunct Baucus bill in the Senate Finance Committee, Snowe has been considered Reid’s potential hole card in seeking 60 votes to pass Obama-care. If Joe Lieberman bolts and votes with Republicans, Reid will tweak the bill to accommodate Snowe. Her speech was a message to Reid: If you’re counting on Snowe, you’ll lose.

Fictiongate!

Hard on the heels of the embarrassing document dump from the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit comes a shocking hack of insider emails from the University of East Anglia’s renowned creative writing course, obtained by SCRAPBOOK humorist-in-chief Sam Schulman. We can’t vouch for their authenticity.

To: Amit Chaudhuri, Trezza Azzopardi, Angela Carter, Rose Tremain, Michèle Roberts, Patricia Duncker, David Lodge, Hugo Williams, Maggie Gee, Adam Mars Jones, Fleur Adcock, Ali Smith, Louis de Bernières, Richard Holmes, Kazuo Ishiguro, Ian McEwan, Graham Swift, Rose Tremain.
From: [email protected]
Subject: Creative Writing Denialism again–in the Independent!
People, look, we have not come through! I suppose everyone’s seen Anita Desai’s attack on Creative Writing MA programmes–in the Independent of all places: “Even though I have taught creative writing programmes, they are awful.” I tried to respond–but I’m not sure that saying we “?’ready’ a writer for the long years of solitary invention ahead” was all that helpful. Any thoughts?

From [email protected]
What really ticked me off was little Tracy Chevalier spouting off–“A course will only take you so far. The rest of it is down to the spark that certain people have, and other people don’t. Courses can’t give you that spark.” Dammit, it was no divine spark who took Tracy’s ms about Francis Bacon’s mistress–“The Bint with the Auschwitz Tattoo”–and turned it into the “Girl with a Pearl Earring.” It was effing ME!

From [email protected]
Calm down, Ian–you’ve got to get over Scarlett Johansson being in Tracy’s film!

From [email protected]
LOL From [email protected]
The truth is that we can’t predict what Creative Writing student will win a Booker, and it’s a travesty!

From [email protected]
That’s ridiculous, David. We’ve had 15 of us in Man Booker lists in the 2000s–one winner, 10 shortlists, four judges. That’s a complete reversal of the ’90s, when our total was like five.

From [email protected]
Yes, and in the ’80s it was 14. There’s no explanation in the computer models for our performance in the ’90s. It took us all by surprise.

From [email protected]
BULL! There is an explanation–we weren’t doing the same kind of tricks–making the same kind of manuscript adjustments in the ’90s. Rose–a few years back you showed me an absolutely hopeless ms from Anne Enright about a happy-go-lucky Irish family down on their luck but jolly well making the best of things.

From [email protected]
I remember, Ian–you called it “Little House in the Bog” !

From [email protected]

From [email protected]
It’s not funny, Rose–and stop texting me, Swift! This is important. I took that POS ms and turned it into “The Gathering”–a book that those Thatcherites at the Telegraph couldn’t stand. Remember what they said? “Depressive Irish saga wins the Booker Prize.” We know what we’re doing, and we shouldn’t be ashamed of doing it. The respectable literary press understands. I was just talking to Sam Tanenhaus about this at the Century Club.

From [email protected]
Wow, Ian–I’m impressed. Did you run into Jack Shafer while you were in the States?

From [email protected] From [email protected]
Speaking of respectable literary press–I’m going to ring Roger at the Indie to see if we can do something with this Arifa Akbar woman who did that denialist interview with la Desai–at least get her to see that she is being used. I hope I don’t have to give her the full Sarah Nelson treatment.

From [email protected]
You mean the former editor-in-chief of Publishers Weekly? Brilliant!

From [email protected]
Andrew, Trezza–you’re on the front lines every day. Your job is to hide the ’90s Booker decline. My job–along with David, Rose, Angela, and anyone else who will help is to adjust student mss so that they fit the Booker curve (I know you’re busy with Harvey Weinstein these days, Kazi–I hope he really does have the money).

From [email protected]
More power to your elbow, Ian. Here’s a hint: Just make ’em look like I wrote ’em.

What do you think–is this the smoking gun?

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